When we share our stories, what it does is, it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey. – Janine Shepherd
Everyone has a story and everyone’s story is important. Our story is about how we ended up in the place we are at and the events that shape who we are and how we see the world. When we tell some of our story to others we give them a glimpse of who we are and allow them a little bit into our lives. One thing that I have come to realize in counseling is that I am a storyteller. I often use stories of my experiences and the experiences of others to bring about understanding and let people know they are not alone in their struggles and failures. Here is a little part of my story of my growth and development as a counselor.
I was born and raised in Lafayette, LA and got my B.S. in Math Education from UL Lafayette in Math Education. I taught briefly as a teacher and after much struggle and difficulty I realized that I was not cut out for teaching. Struggling with self-doubt and confusion, I decided to go to a small Catholic school in Ohio called Franciscan University of Steubenville to get my M.A. in Counseling. Upon graduating I stayed in Ohio and worked in a residential Drug and Alcohol Program for Adolescents which quickly became overwhelming for a variety of reasons. At the time I thought that Substance Abuse was a field that was better left to others and I would not again work primarily in that field again. Fortunately, I was able to get a job at a Community Behavioral Health Center close to where I was living providing individual Counseling to those from 5 to 18 years of age. I had wonderful co-workers including a great supervisor who helped me grow and mature in my skills as a counselor. After just over six years of working there I decided to move back to Louisiana to be closer to my family and the place I grew up.
I moved back to Lafayette, Louisiana and started working for a community based Rehab Mental Health Company where I worked with both kids and adults in their homes, at schools, and in the community. It was a great experience but I quickly grew tired of all the traveling and wanted something more stable so I began searching for another job. The only counseling job I could find at the time was working for an Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment facility for adolescents and so I took it with great reluctance. Despite my hesitation and previous decision to not work in the field of addiction I ended up loving the work and it became an important part of my development as a counselor. While there were difficulties and growing pains I found working with addiction rewarding and it helped me see my own struggles with attachments. It was here I came to better understanding the nature of addiction, hardships people face in overcoming theirs, and ways to work with those struggling with them. It gave me great insight into how addiction affects the mind and the commitment it takes to stay clean. I spent about a year working there until I needed a break and change of pace.
All of this led me to working at a Partial Hospitalization program for adults of all ages. I ran groups with people with a variety of struggles from addiction to serious mental illness. These groups have taught me so much in the past 3 years about so many things and the many ways we deprive ourselves of peace and joy because of our thoughts and actions. I see the struggles each person has in this life and how we are not alone on this journey as we have similarities in our struggles. These groups let to me gaining and developing many of the insights that you will be reading in this blog.
Currently I am still working at the Partial Hospitalization Program part-time while also doing Individual Counseling at a Private Practice helping people with their struggles.
Each of these experiences have taught me so much about myself, others, and life itself. While there have many hardships and trying times they have provided me wisdom that has helped me become both a better counselor and better person. I would not change a single moment of my journey as it has made me into who I am today. I hope in these posts I can share with you some of the information I learned that can help improve our perspective of things and lead to us having more peace and joy in life.
As long as we share our stories, as long as our stories reveal our strengths and vulnerabilities to each other, we reinvigorate our understanding and tolerance for the little quirks of personality that in other circumstances would drive us apart. When we live in a family, a community, a country where we know each other’s true stories, we remember our capacity to lean in and love each other into wholeness.
― Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story